Image via WikipediaIn the fourth article posted on the Trailfire path (reference), suggestions are given for using blogs with students. There are also links to blogs which teachers have created with their students. Some of the suggested sites for the creation of blogs are Blogmeister, Kidzblog, Thingamablog (requires more technical expertise on the teacher's part), and Blogger and LiveJournal (the last two for high school students).
Last year I had two pet ducks in my grade 2 and 3 classroom. We were raising the ducks for one month until they would be able to swim in the pond at a local funeral home. I decided it would be delightful to share our experience with the parents via a duck blog. Our blog was called Duckling Daze (address). If you have the opportunity to visit the blog, you will experience some of the frustration I had. The mechanism I set up was that each day two students were responsible for caring for the ducks. They cleaned out the cage, sat with the ducks during DEAR reading, and measured the ducks while having photos taken. The ideal was that at the end of each day, the two students would select one or two photos and dictate a brief story of what the ducks had done that day. As you can see, the reality was not quite so wonderful. The first entry was made on May 3 and provision was made for some entries near the end but not every day was completed. Students had fun dictating the entries. However, I found it was a lot of work for me to keep it all going.
After saying that, I need to state some of the advantages as given in the Trailfire article for students to use blogs: it gives them a reason for using computer skills--keyboarding, inserting photos and links; students are encouraged to write more when they have a purpose for writing and communicating; students enjoy writing for an audience. Of course, with a blog, parents and other community members could be given the blog address in order to follow the class in their learning.
Some of the disadvantages are the safety issues. Teachers need to read the blog entries before they can be posted to the internet. Parent permission needs to be given for student photos going on the internet. As well, care needs to be taken with how student names are used. (Often, it would only be first names.) From my perspective of actually trying to create a blog with young students, it tends to be very time consuming for the teacher.
Some of my suggestions for creating a blog with elementary students would be: maybe do a blog for a limited time--after students have learned how to blog, perhaps blog site addresses could be sent home for those students with home computers and parents could monitor continued use of blogs for their own children [this last year, I had one student in grade 1 with her own Facebook site]. Another suggestion would be to share the load--perhaps one or two students each day could dictate a blog to the teacher on what they had done that day. Possibly a care partner from an older class could come in to help with the keyboarding. The teacher would
Image via Wikipediastill need to vet the entry before it is posted but the workload would be spread out a little more. The entire class could dictate a blog at the end of the day just to provide closure for the day's learning. One last suggestion would be that students could comment on news stories. With a download like Zemanta which provides links to the words and topics you are typing about, if you typed in a little about the story, Zemanta would probably provide you some pictures and links. Then the students could comment on the story. An example of this would be the recent story of Michael Jackson's death. I'm sure students would have many comments on a story like this.
As I think about the use of blogs in the elementary classroom, I realize it will be very different for many of the other participants in this class. Many work with high school students or even with adult learners. I could see blogs and the interactive nature of the learning that goes with them as being a great fit for high school or adult education settings. I am finding blogging to be an interesting way to document my own learning in this course. Just as one student commented to me about my misadventure in typing my URL with a @ rather than a period, she appreciated learning from my mistake so that she didn't make the same mistake herself. For that reason, I documented my learning of how to set up an RSS feed through Google Reader so that those who come behind me can learn from my trials and errors. I could see this type of scaffolding or zone of proximal development working well with other adult learners who blog within their learning community.